CHECA, Jorge M.

Jorge Checa was the 7th of nine children of a couple who migrated to Manila from Negros Occidental. His father worked at various jobs while his mother cared for the big family. At the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines), Jorge showed a skill for oration, singing and acting. He became active with the college theater group Kamanyang.

History of political involvement

Kamanyang was one of the many student groups that emerged during the growing protest movement against the Marcos regime. It promoted socially-committed theater and staged plays that provoked and criticized. It performed in rallies and travelled to different places, on whichever type of stage, and before a large or small audience in order to show their empathy with the marginalized sectors of our society, the jobless, the poor, the down-trodden.

To depict colonial mentality, Jorge developed the unique character of an English professor who forced his Filipino students to speak English with an American accent. This role made him a well-known protest performer in college campuses in Manila’s university belt, although Jorge also often attracted a rapt audience of laborers or jeepney drivers, coaxing them often to join in the protest activities.

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Jorge went into hiding after learning he was in the military’s wanted list. He linked up with other Kamanyang members who similarly went underground and they created youth teams organizing martial-law resistance in northern Metro Manila, now called the CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela) area.

In Caloocan, Jorge founded a singing group called Salt of the Earth which performed in community meetings. They sang popular tunes as well as songs that spoke of people’s problems and aspirations. The group even made a short appearance at a noontime television variety show.

Jorge married his girlfriend Corazon in July 1973. Their house became the headquarters for community organizers in the area. Months later, the couple and another community organizer Wilfredo Apinado were arrested by the martial law authorities. Corazon and Apinado were released after a day in jail. Jorge, whom the military suspected was a leader, spent three months in detention at Fort Bonifacio.

After his release, Jorge and Corazon decided to move as far away as possible to avoid detection by the regime. They chose Mindanao. Jorge joined up with others, travelling the length of the island while secretly building resistance against the Marcos regime. He and his companions lived with farmers and indigenous communities. He spoke to them about their rights as citizens and how they had to fight for justice and democracy and demand fairness in the government’s treatment of the poor.

Circumstances of death

Corazon would receive occasional letters from Jorge and she knew that in September 1984, Jorge was supposed to be in Zamboanga del Norte. When the letters stopped coming, Corazon suspected the worst. Military officials had floated a report that a political detainee, presumably Jorge himself, had committed suicide while in detention.

Unconvinced about this claim, friends asked human rights lawyers Zorro Aguilar and Jacobo Amatong (both Bantayog martyrs) and other members of the martial-law opposition in Zamboanga to trace Jorge’s whereabouts. Acting on reports that an unmarked grave had been found in Tampilisan town, Zamboanga del Norte, the two lawyers planned to join a fact-finding mission and exhumation. On the eve of their departure, on September 23, 1984, Aguilar and Amatong themselves were assassinated by unidentified gunmen.

Despite this, the exhumation did take place, leading to the recovery of the remains of Jorge and another individual. Jorge’s body bore multiple stab wounds, which disproved the military’s suggestion of suicide.
“Nakilalakosi Jorge sa PCC noongnagingkasapiakongKamanyangtaong 1969. Masayahinn, palabiro, at matalino.Katulongkosiyasapagbibigayngedukasyong pang-masasa akin at saiba pang mgakasapingKamanyang. Walasiyangpagodsamgapagkilos at mgapag-aaralmulasapaaralanhanggangsapagpapakilos.” (Willy Apinado, friend and colleague)

“He was a gentle, fun-loving and kind-hearted man, with a fierce and fearless conviction to do what is right for freedom and justice.” (Jaime A. FlorCruz, friend and colleague)

MAHINAY, Julieto N.

Julieto Mahinay pic 1

Julieto Mahinay was a catechist of the Catholic diocese of Surigao del Norte. He was respected and well-liked although he was a quiet person and was rarely heard to raise his voice. People turned to him for guidance and leadership, and he often helped settle conflicts in the community.

His family lived in Amontay, a small outlying barrio in the municipality of San Francisco (formerly Anao-aon), west of Surigao City. The family enjoyed the respect of the community because they were known to be kind to neighbors and many were actively involved in their church.

History of political involvement

In the mid-1970s, tension was rising in northern Mindanao due to increasing incidents of landgrabbing, militarization and government abuses. In 1977, the Catholic Church started a program called the Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos or ECTF, under the auspices of the Justice and Peace desk of the National Secretariat for Social Action. The ECTF was tasked to document social issues faced by indigenous peoples in the country and to organize campaigns in their behalf. Julieto became an ECTF staff member.

Surigao in those days was one of the country’s least developed provinces. Ethnic communities wallowed in poverty and suffered from illegal incursions of big mining and agricultural corporations in tribal lands.

At that time, Julieto was working with Mamanwas, a semi-nomadic group physically similar to Aetas of Luzon but occupying the mountains of Agusan and Surigao. Julieto held literacy classes for a group of Mamanwas staying in a farm ran by the diocese. He also taught them farming techniques to help them improve their livelihood.

With his work in ECTF, Julieto learned more about the abuses being suffered by indigenous communities in Mindanao particularly from landgrabbers and from government troops. He took up human rights work, helping communities displaced by military operations or families of victims of illegal arrests or of those summarily executed by soldiers. He started teaching Mamanwas themselves about human rights. “Lito gave talks on the dignity of man…we wanted to help tribal minorities become aware of their dignity and human rights,” said Fr. Arturo Bastes, SVD, then social action director and pastoral coordinator of the diocese.

Good Shepherd sister Diane Cabasagan was also among those who worked with Julieto. In the early 1980s she was executive director of Silingang Dapit sa Mindanao (SILDAP), an interfaith group which wanted to start operations in Surigao. Julieto sought the approval of the bishop and local officials, paving the way for Sildap.

Because the diocese took a conservative stand on tribal people issues, and even stayed silent about crucial issues, Julieto spoke of his increasingly critical views only in small groups, in indoor forums or small local rallies. When the abuses grew worse and the condition of lumads (ethnic communities) deteriorated, Julieto began to speak more openly on these issues. He denounced extrajudicial killings, illegal logging practices, and landgrabbing attempts by cronies of the dictatorship.

Circumstances of disappearance

The day he disappeared, on March 14, 1984, Julieto was on his way to the Claver National High School, where he and a coworker were expected to conduct a spiritual retreat for graduating seniors. The driver said his jeepney was stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint of the 36th infantry battalion. The soldiers searched the occupants and found on Julieto a copy of the Holy Bible and a map of tribal Filipino settlements in Mindanao. They also said he was not carrying proper identification papers (cedula). They let the jeep and its passengers go, except Julieto. Julieto never made it to the students’ retreat; neither did he return home.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus for him. His family and coworkers searched for him whenever they received rumors of bodies being dumped in certain places. Julieto was never found. The family believes that the soldiers who seized him had probably killed him.

Impact of disappearance on the community

The community, including Julieto’s co-workers, strongly protested the abduction. They called a 5,000-strong protest rally, exceptionally large for this once-tranquil town. Groups of Mamanwas trekked long distances to attend the first hearing for the habeas corpus petition filed in Julieto’s behalf. Many were reduced to tears, said Fr. Bastes, but others made angry remarks about why such a deed could be perpetrated on such a good man. Some people started calling Julieto the “Ninoy Aquino” of Surigao, after the assassinated senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

The Surigao church and many Surigaonons were affected by the incident. “If Julieto’s disappearance had any redeeming value,” said Fr. Bastes, “it was the transformation of the Surigao clergy’s conservative stand to one which actively upholds human rights and protests rights violations ... Now they are awakened.”

Members of Julieto’s family said they hoped Julieto’s sacrifice would help expose the abuses going on in their province. “There is oppression and abuse of power against innocent people. This is the truth we wish to announce,” Julieto’s sister said.

VILLACILLO, Venerando D.

venerando villacillo pic

When the student ferment of the early 1970s reached Iligan City, Venerando’s older brothers joined the Kabataang Makabayan. He too joined later. Owning a booming voice, he was soon making fiery speeches before crowds. He was tall at 5’11”and he carried himself well, and so was easy to see in a crowd.

Hoping to become a detective, he enrolled at the Philippine College of Criminology in Manila. He also studied the martial arts. He continued to be active with the KM. As the political turmoil intensified he decided to leave school and join the underground. In 1972 he left for Isabela with a batch of other activists from the Visayas and Mindanao. He went through a short military training, and was later given the task of developing new recruits. He was also assigned to help organize barrio people to undertake health and education projects, give political lessons to the local community, and help the locals work out solutions to their local problems. He also gave occasional lessons in the martial arts. He became proficient with Ilokano and used it during his political lessons.

Under the martial law regime, Isabela became heavily militarized. It became the relentless target of daily artillery bombings, ground attacks, and intelligence and psywar operations, all seeking to destroy the fledgling rebel force in the province. The military declared a part of the province’s forested areas as “no man’s land,” and ordered more than 50,000 residents out in order to deprive the guerrillas their means of support. The guerrilla force had to undertake constant evasive action, and became isolated from the local population. When they decided to escape the encirclement, Venerando, then called Ka Ibarra, was one of several leaders who organized the retreat, getting the guerrillas, armed activists and barrio people out of immediate danger. The escape took an entire year’s march, a trek of 370 kilometers, across three provinces and 25 heavily-militarized towns.

Throughout this difficult journey, Venerando kept up the spirits of the evacuees, telling them not to lose hope because they had supporters in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. He helped comfort and care for the sick and wounded and often shared with others his own limited ration of food.

After this phase, Venerando moved to Mindanao, where his family hailed. He took up political work that included building the people’s strength so they could launch protest actions and responses to agrarian problems among farmers and farmworkers in the banana plantations of Davao and in the coconut industry. One of the strong campaigns that resulted was the campaign against the coconut levy, a tax taken from coconut farmers but mainly benefiting Marcos cronies. Venerando took the names Ka Benny and Ka Miguel.

Again in Mindanao, Venerando witnessed the forcible relocation of tens of thousands of people into hamlets in the military’s effort to deny mass support to the rebel guerrillas. Rather than escape, however, they decided that the proper response this time was to rise in protest. As a result, huge demonstrations were organized to protest the displacement and the worsening militarization. Venerando and his group of activists helped in the mobilization in the Compostela Valley region. Protest actions were also organized against the Catalunan Grande massacre, the bombing of the San Pedro Cathedral, the hamletting in Davao del Norte, the killing of Edgar Jopson, and the arrests and torture of Fr. Dong Tizon, Karl Gaspar and Hilda Narciso.

Venerando also became a part of the protests that erupted in the aftermath of the assassination of the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr., helping build the Justice for Aquino and Justice for All movement in Mindanao, preparing streamers, placards and leaflets with slogans such as “Oust the dictator!“ “Marcos resign” and “Dismantle the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship.” On occasion Venerando’s baritone voice would be heard calling on people not to be afraid of the dictatorship.

Venerando became one of the dictatorship’s most wanted men in Mindanao.

In the mid-1980s, Venerando spent some time again in northern Luzon, leading military resistance as well as expansion efforts in that area.

In 1985, he and his small family were on a trip to Manila when Venerando was abducted. He tried to resist his abductors until one of the men stuck a barrel of a gun to the head of his daughter, at which point he allowed himself to be taken away. His wife, family and friends launched a long campaign that even extended overseas to have him found. The regime denied having him in custody although the family was surreptitiously told that the team that undertook the abduction was led by Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo of the Philippine Constabulary. Venerando was never found.

GAVANZO, Ceasar G., Jr.

ceasar gavanzo jr. pic

Ceasar Jr., the eldest son, was 22 years old when his father died in 1969 and made him take up the role of family head. Then a criminology student in Manila, he often went back home to look in on the family and their livelihood. “He was persevering, energetic and he treated our farm workers justly,” his sister Rosario said. Graduating with a diploma in criminology, Ceasar planned to pursue law because he “wanted to be able to help the poor.”

History of political involvement

However he got caught in the political storm that erupted in the country in the late 1960s. The ferment was brought about by the shenanigans of the Marcos government, made worse by rampant inflation, tuition fee hikes, the country’s participation in the Vietnam War and increasing police and military brutality. The Marcos couple’s profligate spending amid worsening poverty riled the people.

Ceasar attended discussion forums and demonstrations organized by student groups like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and later the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). When he went home for visits, he would discuss these current issues with friends and townmates and with his brothers and sisters. He said he wanted them to understand the crisis that the country was facing.

The First Quarter Storm of 1970 affected Ceasar in a personal way. A massive rally was held on January 26, during the opening of Congress. This was followed by an even bigger protest rally on January 30. The rally was violently dispersed. It dragged on into the night, spread to other parts of Manila, including Mendiola, the street fronting the Malacañang palace. Four students were killed that night – Ricardo Alcantara from the University of the Philippines, Felicisimo Singh Roldan from the Far Eastern University, 17 year-old Bernardo Tausa from Mapa High School, and Fernando Catabay from MLQU.

Catabay was Ceasar’s schoolmate as well as good friend. Later Ceasar told his sister that the image of Catabay being felled by bullets kept playing over and over in his mind.

In the 1971 local elections, Ceasar came home from his studies in Manila to support the gubernatorial campaign of Juan Frivaldo who was running against a known Marcos ally. Ceasar’s political campaign included exposing Marcos’ growing corruption and degeneracy. He urged the people to elect honest and responsible leaders and to be courageous in letting their will be heard. Frivaldo won in the elections.

Circumstances of death and impact on family and community

In the weeks preceding the declaration of martial law by President Marcos, the family of Ceasar, sensing the coming political storm, asked him to come home permanently. Heeding the request, Ceasar returned to Sorsogon and found work as an administrative officer of by then Governor Frivaldo.

But he pursued his political work in the province. He attended a protest rally where he was picked up, detained illegally, and beaten up by a policeman. He sustained several cracked ribs from the beating. Ceasar managed to escape from his prison cell a few days later with the governor’s help. The governor also had his injuries treated and found him temporary shelter while recuperating from the mauling he received.

Not long after, Marcos declared martial law. Soldiers came every night to Ceasar’s house, looking for him and threatening and often insulting the family. The house was placed under constant surveillance. But Ceasar had not made any contact with the family since his escape.

After he had his strength back, Ceasar left the sanctuary offered by the governor, declaring his intention to seek out fellow activists to build a secret resistance against martial law in Sorsogon. But as it turned out, that was to be Ceasar’s last known location.

Not long after, the family was shocked to receive information that Ceasar had been killed and that his body had been dumped at the Bulusan Municipal Hall. Ceasar’s family quickly acted on the tip. At the municipal hall, they found his mangled remains. The body bore bullet wounds, his legs and ribs broken, and several teeth extracted. Townmates called the killing an act of brutality.

Today Ceasar is considered the first casualty of martial law in Sorsogon. In succeeding years, many more of the province’s youth were killed for their beliefs, including Ceasar’cousin, Tony Ariado and friend Nanette Vytiaco, whose names are now etched on Bantayog’s Wall of Remembrance. Many were also unjustly put in prison and tortured, among them three of Ceasar’s siblings.

To this day, Ceasar Gavanzo Jr.’s struggle for freedom continues to inspire many people. Emilio Ubaldo, the current mayor of Matnog town, says of Ceasar that “… he faced great adversity but took the courage to stand up and defend, not only his own, but the people’s rights…”
“Katulad ni Ginoong Rizal, ibinuhis din niya ang hiram na buhay sa pakiki-aklas na buong akala niya ay tamang paraan upang maisalba ang isang bansang naghihikahos sa kahirapan at pagmamalabis na pagpayaman ng pamilyang Marcos. Walang kasingtulad ang mga ginawa niya at dapat mailathala na isang huwarang bayani.” (Hilario U. Belo, Chairman on Temporalities, Sto. Nino Parish Pastoral council, Matnog, Sorsogon)

“He denied himself of the enjoyment of life, as young and handsome as he was, all taken by his conviction for the sake of our country’s welfare, even to the end of his useful life.” (Erlinda Garrido Hoffer, Matnog National High School)

BELTRAN, Crispin "Ka Bel" B.

Crispin Beltran was born a poor man, lived a life of service, and when it was done, he left this world still with but a few coins in his name just as when he started, but making a mark despite himself.

His parents were farmers in a small town in Albay province. Crispin was already in grade school when the Japanese invaded the country. The ensuing war interrupted the bright young boy’s schooling. The 9-year-old boy scout volunteered for the anti-Japanese resistance, eventually earning for him a youngest-courier award from the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

He graduated salutatorian in grade school, and also with honors in high school. He also showed leadership qualities, serving as official in his class and in the student council.

After high school, he moved to Manila to try his luck there. He did two years of college, found jobs as a janitor and messenger, but eventually ended up earning a living as a taxi driver.

Political involvement

Several years after he started with the Manila Yellow Taxi Company, Crispin joined the union, seeing a chance for blue-collar workers like him to work for a decent livelihood through united action. By 1955, when he was 22 years old, he helped establish a federation of taxi drivers’ unions, called the Amalgamated Taxi Drivers Association. He was elected president and held the post for eight years.

As a young union leader, he had a chance to attend labor education courses at the University of the Philippines. He steadily gained a greater grasp of issues and the options that surrounded labor. When Philippine unionism saw a boost in the late 1950s, Crispin’s leadership grew even more notable, serving as vice-president of a Philippine Workers Congress in 1956, and in 1957-1958, of the Confederation of Labor of the Philippines which he co-founded.

Crispin was 26 when he met his future wife Rosa, a rural girl who had run away from home and had serendipitously taken his taxi. The meeting would become a life-long relationship and partnership.

The Marcos regime transformed Crispin. Faced with an increasingly autocratic government, Crispin whose concerns had been focused on workers’ welfare, started to see other issues, threats to his country’s democracy and nationhood, echoes of those war cries raised in the days of his youth.

The dictatorship banned many of labor’s few allowed activities, such as assemblies, pickets and strikes, and even unionism itself. Ranks of workers and unionists swelled the anti-Marcos resistance and open opposition. This led to the arrest, abduction and even assassination of scores of labor leaders.

Crispin, now a popular figure called “Ka Bel” by friends and fellow unionists, quietly but firmly helped reshape the local labor movement into a force that would contribute in opposing the dictatorship. He and other labor leaders, notably the charismatic Felixberto Olalia Sr., established the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in 1980. Within two years KMU had 750,000 members, and KMU forces swelled the ranks of protesters in rallies and demonstrations in Metro Manila and other major cities in the country where labor was a significant sector.

Marcos ordered the arrests of labor leaders in 1982, leading to the imprisonment of both Ka Bel and Olalia. Ka Bel escaped in 1984 and went into hiding. He emerged after the Marcos dictatorship fell and the new Aquino government came into power.

Instead of resting on his sterling achievements as a labor leader, Ka Bel went on to break new ground. In 1987, he tried his hand at national politics, running for senator under the short-lived Partido ng Bayan. He lost the elections but won over 1.5 million votes, a testament to this person with the humble beginnings’ growing nationwide popularity. He was elected chair of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) from 1993-1999.

He continued to serve his first love, the labor movement. He served in KMU as national president from 1987 to 2001, taking the place of assassinated KMU president, lawyer Rolando Olalia, son of his erstwhile comrade at arms in the labor movement.

When the party-list system went into effect, Ka Bel took a seat in Congress in 2001 as representative of the poor for the party list Bayan Muna and later for another party-list Anakpawis. In Congress, he authored and co-authored resolutions in behalf of the poor in his country. He worked by the standard that people’s taxes must be used well and honesty. He earned the ire of President Gloria Arroyo who in February 2006 had him arrested for rebellion, and detained for one and a half years until the charges against him were declared by the Supreme Court baseless. While he was in prison, rallies calling for his release were held in many countries such as Germany and the Netherlands to Japan and Australia.

His staunch advocacy for the labor sector and the poor, his love for country, and the simple decency with which he bore himself earned him the respect of a broad section of the population, pedestrians as well as politicians. On his death by a freak accident in 2008, his family would receive thousands of condolences from within the country and abroad, expressing grief at his untimely death and admiration for the person he was. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim had a marker built in Ka Bel’s honor at the historic Plaza Miranda, also declaring the day of his death, May 20th, as “Ka Beltran’s Day.”

Circumstances of death

On that foul day when it happened, the news had warned of a powerful storm coming. Ka Bel, worried that the roof of his house might not stand the winds, took out the ladder and climbed up the roof to try to do repairs. Unfortunately, the 75-year-old, stout-hearted unionist, slipped and fell, and his broken body could not survive the fall.

Impact of life and death

Expressions of grief and sympathy poured in from here and abroad. The necrological service was the biggest known held at the House of Representatives. His wake drew 50,000 visitors, and the funeral march, some 30,000. Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. called him a “torchbearer,” and former senator, now president, Benigno Aquino III, said he felt Ka Bel’s sincerity.

The impact Ka Bel had on the ordinary Filipino is best illustrated by an account of a young woman who had never met him. In a newspaper column, this young person wrote that she had gone to the Quiapo market on her father’s request to buy flowers for Ka Bel’s wake. Quiapo’s flower vendors, learning who the flowers were for, all pitched in and prepared a beautiful wreath for free, adding still another bouquet of chrysanthemums, because Ka Bel, they said, was their champion.

A country, it is said, is known by the kind of heroes it honors (from speech of Sen. Jovito R. Salonga, delivered during the first Bantayog ng mga Bayani celebration, November 30, 1992). Crispin Beltran served his country as a leader of laborers and a fighter for their rights and welfare. He taught them they should not fight only for themselves or their union, but for their country and their fellow Filipinos. Ka Bel stayed true to his course, not lulled by his accomplishments, not giving in to the temptations of power, bribery or even threats, defying even the demands of age.

For nine years a representative of the working class in the Philippine Congress, Ka Bel had the right to add the word “Honorable” before his name. In his case, however, it was a true description of his character, a rare occurrence in Philippine Congress by most accounts. All Filipinos would be proud to see this truly honorable man included in their roster of modern-day Filipino heroes.

ALEJANDRO, Leandro "Lean" L.

Leandro Alejandro was a well-known student leader during martial law.

Leandro, or Lean, participated in campus protests against martial law, joining open as well as clandestine groups in the University of the Philippines (UP). Soon he was a leader in these campus organizations, and by the early 1980s, was a key figure in the national anti-dictatorship movement.

In 1979 he joined the staff of the Philippine Collegian, the UP student paper, as features writer. He chaired the Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND) from 1980 to 1981 and was junior fellow at the UP Third World Studies Center from 1981 to 1983. During the schoolyear 1983-1984, he was elected chairman of the university student council. The following school year he was chosen student representative to the UP Board of Regents.

In May 1984, he led a UP students’ march to Mendiola bridge in Manila to protest tuition hikes. When the march ended peacefully, Lean was quoted as saying: “Now people won’t be afraid to demonstrate at Mendiola.” The march is regarded as the fi rst on that historic bridge to have ended peacefully since the First Quarter Storm of 1970. Under Lean’s leadership, the student marches drew from a few hundred participants to up to tens of thousands just months later. He helped establish several anti-dictatorship groups such as the Coalition of Organizations for the Realization of Democracy (CORD, 1984); Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA); Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy (NAJFD); Kaakbay; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN); and Partido ng Bayan (PnB). Lean later became convinced that greater and deeper problems than a dictatorship burdened the Philippines. He later adopted a national democratic political program as the viable alternative for effecting the necessary social changes in the country.

More than his extraordinary height, Lean stood out as an activist because he possessed insight, a unifying approach, speaking and writing skills, and courage and boldness. Older and more experienced colleagues in the protest movement had him in high regard, and government negotiators who met Lean across the barricades gave him their grudging respect.

Lean was secretary-general of the multisectoral group BAYAN when he was assassinated in 1987. He had just left a press conference in Intramuros, Manila, and was driving back to the Bayan office in Cubao, Quezon City when his vehicle was ambushed near the Bayan headquarters. Two of his three companions
were wounded. Lean was 27 years old.

BAYAN said Lean’s assassination was part of a list of “bloody anti-people crimes” by the Aquino administration. The government denounced the killing but failed to solve the crime. It remains unsolved.

The protest movement sorely grieved the loss of this young, exceptionally gifted, and heroic figure. Poems and a musical opera were written for him who gave so much for his country when to do so meant extreme sacrifice.

Contact Us

Come and visit us at Sen. Jovito R. Salonga Building, Bantayog Center, Quezon Ave, Diliman, 1109 Quezon City, Philippines.

You can call us at (Smart) 09085054761, (Globe) 09776220828, and landlines 9851126, 9386672, 9387981, or email us at,,, and We're also on Facebook at

The Bantayog office are open 9AM to 5PM Mondays to Fridays unless holidays and on special announcements by the Bantayog administration. The Bantayog Museum on the other hand is open from 9-11AM and 1-4PM Tuesdays to Saturdays.


Bantayog ng mga Bayani in the Filipino language means “Monument to the Heroes.” It is a landscaped memorial center honoring those individuals who lived and died in defiance of the repressive regime that ruled over the Philippines from 1972 to 1986.

A 14-meter Inang Bayan (Mother Philippines) Monument designed by the sculptor Eduardo Castrillo stands on the grounds of the memorial center, depicting the self-sacrifice of a fallen figure of a man, held in one hand by the rising figure of a woman who symbolizes the Motherland, while her other hand reaches for the glorious sun of freedom. In the distance stands a Wall of Remembrance, where the names of martyrs are inscribed. The Monument and the Wall of Remembrance were unveiled on 30 November 1992.

The Inspiration

After visiting the Philippines immediately after the 1986 People Power Revolution to rejoice over the downfall of an authoritarian regime, Dr. Ruben Mallari, a Filipino-American medical doctor, suggested the establishment of a memorial to honor those martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom and justice but failed to witness the dawn of freedom.


A group of Filipinos responded to this suggestion and organized the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Foundation. Dr. Ledivina V. Cariño, former Dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Public Administration, helped draft the concept paper based on the suggestion of Dr. Mallari. The final concept paper stated the rationale for Bantayog :
Freedom has dawned magnificently upon us brought about by our own will, with the help of Divine Providence. We stood together with linked arms as we proclaimed our unity, our dedication to liberty and democracy, and our commitment to our country. With boundless faith, we broke the chains which enslaved us in a regime of terror, intimidation and fraud. But as we enjoy our liberation, let us not forget those who fell during the night. Let us honor the Filipino patriots who struggled valiantly against the unjust and repressive rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Let us build a memorial to those men and women who offered their lives so that we may all see the dawn.

For as we remember those victims of authoritarian rule, we shall become more vigilant about preserving our freedom, defending our rights, and opposing any attempt by anyone to foist another dictatorship upon us.

In honoring our martyrs, we proclaim our determination to be free forever.

The Bantayog Center aims to reach out mainly to schoolchildren and college students, hoping to help them understand and learn from the people's struggle against repression. “Never Again!” is a recurring theme of the activities.

Preserving the Memory

Based on a set of criteria for selecting persons to be honored, families of victims, members of civic organizations, and the general public are invited to send the names and personal circumstances of persons who should be honored. A Research and Documentation Committee verifies the factual bases of each nomination and conducts independent researches and investigations, so that the names of obscure, unknown martyrs in remote places may be brought to light. The Executive Committee of the Foundation reviews the recommendations of the Committee, and the Board of Trustees gives the final approval.

The names of the first sixty-five martyrs, some of them well- known such as Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. and many others not as well-known, were enshrined in 1992. The following year, after long reflection, the Foundation decided to include as heroes those who gave their all for the sake of freedom, justice, and democracy during the Marcos years but died after the EDSA Revolution.

Since then, hundreds of heroes and martyrs of the martial law dictatorship have been honored by their names being inscribed on the black granite Wall of Remembrance.

Right behind the Wall of Remembrance is the Jovito R. Salonga Building, which is named after a distinguished political leader who fought against the authoritarian regime. Salonga continues to add his powerful voice to the democratic people's movement clamoring for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

The Bantayog Museum occupies more than a hundred square meters of space on the second floor of the Jovito R. Salonga Building. On the same floor is the Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium where film showings are presented and programs are held. It is named after the Foundation's Chairperson, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who has served as the country's ambassador to China and Japan.

A library is now open on the ground floor of the same building. It contains archives and reference materials relating to the same period, and has begun to serve students and scholars wishing to do research.

Awakening a Sense of History

By displaying authentic material objects associated with the heroes and martyrs, as well as with the period of dictatorship, the Bantayog Museum hopes to awaken in its visitors a powerful sense of history as it was actually made by real-life men and women.

In order to place the dictatorship and the corresponding people's resistance in their historical context while concentrating principally on the period itself of Marcos rule (1972 to 1986), the collection and displays also include the periods immediately before (from 1965) and after (1986-87).

Thus, the pre-martial law section deals with the economic, political and social problems of the 1960s (mass poverty, abusive government officials, violation of civil liberties) that gave rise to popular discontent especially of the youth.

Methods of torture are documented, and the model of a prison cell draws much attention from visitors.

There is a growing collection of memorabilia from the period of resistance, including underground publications, the “mosquito press,” reports from the various civil-society groups emerging at the time, and expressions of international solidarity. The families and friends of the heroes and martyrs donate much of the Bantayog Museum’s material collections.

Through the years of repression, opposition to the Marcos regime kept growing and broadening until the shocking assassination of the political leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. upon his return to the Philippines from exile in the United States. The ensuing nationwide protests have been well documented; culminating in the world-famous “People Power Revolution” that finally drove the dictator out in February 1986. This event is brought to life in the Bantayog Museum with the scale model of a military tank, stopped in its tracks and covered with flower petals showered by the people gathered to press for the ouster of Marcos.

Meanwhile, a Hall of Remembrance beside the Bantayog Museum is dedicated to the heroes and martyrs, through the capsule biographies and individual photos of each one. This section is meant to inspire love and respect for their sacrifice for the common good, especially in the minds and hearts of young people.

Other Activities

Conscious that many other aspects of the martial law period are not yet included in the permanent display, the Bantayog Museum has been mounting special exhibits from time to time. One of these was a special tribute to the late President Corazon Aquino, who assumed the presidency right after the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, and whose recent demise prompted a massive outpouring of emotions and fresh insights into her legacy of public service. Another special exhibit showed the works of Philippine artists done in the Social Realist style, some of which were painted during the martial law period and others depicting how today realities mirrors those of yesterday.

Concerts and story-telling are among the other activities conducted by the Bantayog Museum. It may be noted that since the Bantayog Center hosts numerous programs, seminars, etc. by various civil- society groups, the latter are also drawn to visit the Bantayog Museum. It is hoped that with more support from the private sector and the general public, more resources will be generated that will allow the implementation of so many ideas that cry out to be done.

Volunteers are the backbone of the staff, a unique aspect of the Bantayog Museum and Library. Many of them were part of the people's movement against martial law, and are thus able to impart an unforgettable personal touch as they guide visitors around the exhibits. Others are student volunteers with a particular appreciation of the history of the period. Conscious of the need to equip themselves with the requisite professional and technical skills, they have been taking part in a museology training program consisting of visits, seminars and workshops offered by the country's foremost institutions along this line, led by the National Museum.

The operations of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center are supported and guided by a Board of Trustees headed by the top businessman Alfonso T. Yuchengco as Chairperson and human- rights lawyer Jovito R. Salonga, Chairperson Emeritus, with Nievelena V. Rosete as Executive Director.

Making an Impact

Of the more than forty five thousand visitors who have come to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center, a good number is composed of ex-activists who are now parents and grandparents themselves. Often, they come in groups to relive the time when they put their own lives at stake for the sake of “truth, freedom, justice and democracy” – the watchwords of Bantayog Museum even today.

However, students at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) make up the majority of visitors. Because Philippine history is part of the academic curriculum, schools organize annual educational tours of which the Bantayog Museum is increasingly a part. It is not an uncommon sight to see tour buses lined up at the entrance to the Bantayog Memorial Center, loaded with hundreds of students and their teachers all waiting for their turn.

It is mainly because of favorable media coverage over the past two years that these schools (and the tour operators) have come to know about the Bantayog Memorial Center. Bloggers have been a good source of information and promotion, as well.

The Philippine press sees the Bantayog Museum as a timely reminder of the dangers of forgetting the past. “At last a museum for rare courage,” read one headline. One columnist said, “...(S)pend a nice Sunday afternoon there, while the breezes blow and the sun shines, looking at the names carved on the Wall of Remembrance, which belong to those who did something heroic for us in more recent times, which claimed many of their lives, and which is why the breezes blow, and the sun shines for us today.” Not a few have commented, though, that this is still a small museum with fewer items than the bigger ones; others have noted the “little shop of horrors” aspect which are perhaps an unpleasant reminder of the martial law period's atrocities.

Future Direction

Building up the Bantayog Museum's collections, as well as properly organizing them with a digitized information system, is the focus of work in the short to medium term. At the same time, the work of educating the public about the Bantayog Museum and its chief concerns should be addressed through more special exhibits, lecture series, conferences and such. A very important complementary task is to dig deeper into the sources of information about martial law; an oral history project must be started while participants during the period are still around to remember and to recount.

This year, 2011, as Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation observes its 25th anniversary, the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center envisions itself to be “a leading organization on the martial law years, or the leading organization”.

The words of Senator Salonga sum up what Bantayog ng mga Bayani foundation will continue to aim  at:

“We shall proclaim our firm resolve to keep faith with our martyrs and heroes and our deepest conviction that this land of the morning, the repository of our hopes and dreams, is worth living for and dying for.”


The Daet Massacre

The following article about the Daet Massacre is from a 1982 Bicol situationer pamphlet.

Paalam NVR, Godspeed!

Mrs. Nievelena V. Rosete, our former executive director, board secretary and long-time trustee, passed away today June 10, 2015. We extend to her family and friends our warmest sympathy and condolences.

Paalam, NVR, and godspeed!

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